Mike Duffy trial: Crown presents its final arguments
Published Monday, February 22, 2016 4:53AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 22, 2016 11:27PM EST
In its closing arguments in Mike Duffy’s trial, the Crown attacked the senator’s credibility, saying his actions were dishonest and corrupt.
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Ten months after Duffy’s criminal trial began, Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes told the court Monday he would not speak orally about Duffy’s Ottawa living expenses or Duffy’s travel expenses, saying he would leave that to his written submissions.
Instead, he focused on what he called the “slush fund” that Duffy set up with his friend Gerald Donohue to pay for services that the Senate would not cover, including such things as makeup for photo shoots and personal training sessions.
“I don’t want to be provocative (in using the term ‘slush fund’), but that’s what it is,” Holmes told the court.
Holmes also questioned Duffy’s credibility, saying that while it’s up to the court to decide whether Duffy’s testimony was credible, the court should consider Duffy’s demeanor throughout his eight days on the stand.
“Did he listen?” Holmes asked, or did it seem like he had “an agenda of his own?”
“Did it seem like he was making it up as we were going along?” Holmes asked the court to consider
Crown lawyer Jason Neubauer also accused Duffy's defence team of embracing inaccuracies as a way deferring blame. Neubauer said what ultimately counts is that Duffy accepted $90,000 from Nigel Wright, former prime minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, to allegedly cover his questionable expenses.
"This is not a real defence," said Neubauer.
He added that it has been established beyond a reasonable doubt that Duffy accepted the money, and all of the context leading up to that doesn't absolve him of responsibility.
Neubauer said Duffy made no attempt to seek permission from his superiors in the Senate prior to his acceptance of the funds.
Duffy's testimony in court that he didn't know the money came from Wright points to the fact that he didn't want to be beholden to anyone and he displayed a "willful blindness," Neubauer alleged.
He added that the former senator was also inconsistent, pointing to a draft letter to the Senate Ethics Officer, written by a lawyer on Duffy's behalf, which Neubauer said made it clear he knew the money was from Wright.
Neubauer also said Duffy's actions clearly weren't done for the public good, but rather for dishonest and corrupt ends.
Duffy's intention was to thwart any investigation of his own criminality, and did so by covering up the true source of the money, Neubauer told the court.
Justice Charles Vaillancourt has already heard more than 60 days of testimony in a trial that was expected to last only eight weeks.
Members of Harper's staff testified, as did forensic accountants and other senators. Duffy himself took the stand for eight days and was the defence's only witness.
Two weeks have been set aside for the final oral arguments, though it is unlikely to take that long. Vaillancourt asked the Crown and Duffy’s defence lawyer, Donald Bayne, in December that they present their submissions in writing first, in hopes they would “focus” their final arguments so that the full two weeks would not be needed.
Bayne spoke to the court briefly on Monday. He said he didn't receive the Crown's written arguments until last Friday and its casebook on Monday morning.
Bayne also said the Crown has simplified and mischaracterized the evidence.
He is expected to complete his submission on Tuesday.
It is not clear when Vaillancourt will have his verdict ready, but it will likely be several months.
Duffy, 69, is currently on a paid leave of absence from the Senate. He was previously suspended, along with fellow senators Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. All three suspensions were lifted when Parliament was dissolved last summer, although Duffy and Brazeau have not had their office resource budgets reinstated.
He faces 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to questionable expense claims. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
If Duffy is acquitted of all the charges, he can return to his job with full salary and office resources.
If he is found guilty of any of the charges, he will be suspended from the Senate. After all his appeals are exhausted, Duffy’s fellow senators would decide whether to permanently expel him from the upper chamber.
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